It is a dismal and dreary start to June here in Montreal, but there has been no shortage of electric and (sometimes) blood-boiling competition to keep us all warm! From the MIMC (the finals are tonight and tomorrow), or RuPaul's drag race (frankly the best reality TV there is), June is truly busting out all over. I've been fortunate to be a 'phantom-juror' for the MIMC, wherein I live tweet the rounds of competition, as to provide up to the minute feedback for inquiring online minds. If you'd like to see my commentary, please visit my Twitter page here! It has been an absolute privilege to experience such a prestigious competition this way. But, it has left me with one lingering thought:
Competitions for art are really and truly strange.
Art is subjective, and everyone's tastes are wildly different. So how does one judge a performance objectively? Is it even possible?
TV series like American/Canadian Idol, The Voice, The X Factor etc. etc. have lulled us into a false sense of artistic merit. Yes, it might be a chance for a hard-working artist to get their big break, but that break comes at a cost of lost career longevity and creative license. While there are some exceptions, this seems to be the overarching trend.
It seems to me that each competition( for singing, at least) is its own animal. AND that so-called "competition singing" is a different skill to master. These aren't negative facets, mind you. You have to know what it is you're signing up for, and let me tell you, it's not just a chance to be heard by some important people. There's often quite a lot of money to be had (over $80 000 in total prizes at the MIMC, for example), and with money comes politics! (are you surprised?)
There is always some element of surprise when the competitors who are advancing to the next round, and eventually when the winners are announced. It seems to me through many years of auditioning and competitions, and especially since getting more of a "judges perspecitve" in my phantom jury duty, that there are really three categories of singers: The extremely talented, the adequately talented and the questionable. The Extreme Talents represent about 85% of the pool. They are stunning, consummate artists who have made excellent choices in their repertoire and are ready to be there. The Adequately Talented represent about 13% of the pool. They are definitely still worth the price of admission, are engaging and talented but lack something from their artistic package. Maybe they need to work on their technique, maybe their acting skills need some development, maybe it's a language issue- there's just something that prevents them from being the absolute best, but there's LOTS of potential and more than enough to like about them. The Questionable Talent represents about 2% of the pool. Maybe they're having a bad day, maybe they're getting over an illness, or their voice is in the midst of changing in a significant way, but there are more than a few moments of serious pondering on the listener's part.
Now, let me blow your mind.
These categories will often be COMPLETELY different for each audience/jury member. I may think Singer A is extremely talented, but my colleague might think Singer A is terrible. Who is right? Does it matter?
It's hard to decide for yourself (the competing/auditioning artist) when the critics are right and wrong. Though it may feel like it, critiques are (most often) nothing personal. You are not your voice. Art does not progress through our systematic elimination of those who are superior/inferior to us. It's a team effort!
Happy hunger games ;)
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